Category Archives: change

Snowbound

Blizzard 2014 temp

Here in northern Indiana, it doesn’t take much talk of snow before the conversation turns to the great blizzard of January 1978. I was visiting Goshen, Indiana, when that incredible storm hit. We were cooped up indoors for days. Unforgettable, even for a young child. It was quite overwhelming.
The snow storms of the past few days have been as bad as I can remember for a long time. A good time to sit at the kitchen table and write. Here’s a sestina with my musings on snow and change and hope. Wherever you are tonight, stay warm!

 

Snowbound

I was a witness, a passenger, a caged bird, for the great snow
of seventy-eight. I lived through the cost and chaos, saw the way
the windswept landscape shifted so much you couldn’t find
your bearings ten feet from your front door. One savage, billowing drift
that month took my grandmother’s home in its teeth. This was all new
to me, freshly arrived in these parts, awe-struck as the blizzard ground

on and on outside. Her patio doors, glazed from ground
to ceiling, once so inviting, were now struck white as snow,
the color of dreams, of fate, of oblivion. I never knew
till that awful recognition, how God could wipe away
all trace of humanity from the earth, could let us just drift
free, one tiny speck on the ocean that no one would ever find

again, if not for grace. Appalled, I realized I couldn’t find
my face in the glass, could see no prints on the ground.
Unknowing, I had become a son of Noah, shut in to drift
for days on end, counting my breaths, watching the snow
rise like a flood, dumb as an animal, with no way
to open the hatch, to breathe fresh air, no word of new

land. I learned the fickleness of hope. Perhaps this is what God knew
in shutting the door so tight on Noah and his clan… That to find
a new life, one must first let go for good of the old, give way
to the swelling tide, feel one’s feet swept from the ground
and lose the stars, become a tiny fleck of wind-blown snow,
yielded to providence. One must be willing to drift

on moonlit seas, beyond all maps. How else to learn that we cannot drift
beyond the compass of the divine? Of the one who knew
us long before the morning stars first sang. How else find that there is no
place that we can go where God is not, and no place we will not find
that tell-tale laughter, light as paw prints upon new ground,
the wise dragon voice that tells us others have been this way

before, and this new thing will not lead to death. There was no way
I could have known this forty years ago, before that awful snow drift,
no way to comprehend the majesty of creation as it swept the ground,
no way to know of love, and loss, and life again in better lands. I only knew
that I was a child, one tiny stowaway aboard this ark. It would be years till I would find
the sun and truly trust it. First I would need to climb and fall and climb again, to learn to love the snow.

Now I have returned. Tonight, half a lifetime away, I stand before the window as a new
blizzard hides both sky and ground. Once more, I feel my feet begin to slip, but now I find
no terror. Instead, I laugh and let my soul drift high, yielded to grace, to change, to snow.

 

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Seventeen

Seventeen

It’s a whirlwind season in my home life. Graduations, college preparation, combing through old pictures, casting off items we forget we had and certainly will never use again.  Everyone is drifting – not in a bad way.  But we are definitely coming un-stuck from each other.  There is nothing to prepare you for this kind of pulling apart.  Everything tastes bittersweet.

In the middle of all of this, I wrote a villanelle – about change, and love, and seeing the ones we love with new eyes. For my father, for Father’s Day.

 

Seventeen

Suddenly, he won’t talk to me:
He’s become a steel curtain.
It’s just the way I used to be

with my father, too, half angry,
half amused at the old cretin.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me

about even simple things. We
are strangers more than next-of-kin.
It’s just the way I used to be –

I remember the agony
of this age – the man-trap he’s in.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me

except on days he needs money,
and really, is that such a sin?
It’s just the way I used to be!

I don’t take it personally –
this is a game a dad can’t win.
Suddenly, he won’t talk to me –
it’s just the way I used to be.

 

No turning back

 

It can be a wonderful thing to belong in a group.  I know people who find great fulfilment in knowing every move to make, every word to say or avoid, every rhythm of “how we do things.”   The comfort of knowing there will be people there for you, come what may; and the knowledge that you will do the same for others – whether they ask for it or not.  The can be a comfort in conformity.

But then there are the others, the ones who struggle continually within the constraints of belonging.  The ones who live like icebergs, unwilling or unable to reveal their depths.  Or who give up and melt away.  I’ve seen it so often.  The longer I live, I find I am wistful for the belonging, for its goodness; but at the same time find I am increasingly drawn to the fringes, the rebels, the bright orange in a sea of black and blue.

 

No turning back

Someone in this sea of black and blue,
of downturned eyes, has a tattoo
on her shoulder blade – a butterfly
perhaps; better yet, a devil’s eye
that no one but her lover knows,
a secret that she never shows.

Someone in this modest fashion show
is wearing orange, brazen just below
her neckline, bursting with desire
not so much to shock as just to let the fire
within her have its head at last – finally
to be the blazing torch that she was born to be.

Someone in this close and holy space
is terrified, yet ready to depart this place
once and for all. Tonight,
after the benediction, no fight
no grand pronouncements, no bitter end.
Just a kiss, a plain embrace for every friend
and then no turning back – her fierce reward for
loosening the tight-tied strings her mother wore.

 

Death in the pot

It’s been a rough week in the neighborhood.  We had a grade-school kid collapse on our lawn after experimenting with synthetic marijuana.  Then a spate of gang-related graffiti, including some of the most disturbing racial threats I have seen.  What really set me back in the end was the way none of this even phased me.  I just carried on as if things were normal.  Which I guess they are.  No outrage, no compassion.  Just a kind of jaded indifference.  I don’t like to think this the is person I am becoming.  Something has to change in this neighborhood – and maybe it’s me  Maybe you can connect with this, in some way.  Anyway, I wrote this bop as I reflected on the experience of these days.

He couldn’t have been more than twelve years old,
face down on our lawn, strung out on K-2.
Out of nowhere there were three police cars
blocking the street, soon joined by a fire truck
and a white ambulance. Then came the crowd,
the shouts, the knowing looks, the same old dance.

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

Overnight there was fresh graffiti sprayed
on our neighbors’ garage – a racial slur
with a threat. The City sent a young man
to take photos. He hardly said a word.
It all just felt so completely normal:
cops on our lawn, the n-word three feet tall.
It wasn’t until my son said to me,
“I’m scared to be outside,” that it hit me:

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

Suddenly I’m angry. Seething at the
drug pushers, slum lords, smug politicians,
most of all, myself – for falling asleep,
dulled by twenty years in one place, until
I don’t blink when a kid might be dying
on my doorstep. There is death in the pot.

Something has to change in this neighborhood.

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